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By now, you’re sure to be familiar with Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. In the past 12 months, they have sold over a staggering 12 million records worldwide, toured across Europe, USA and Australasia and won a BRIT award, a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award and three MTV Video Music awards. They even became the first British band to reach No.1 on the US Billboard chart with their debut album ‘Up All Night’ – and that’s not mentioning the other 17 countries where they topped the charts.
Now the boys return with their second album, ‘Take Me Home’ – an album that has been breaking records before its release. The first single taken from the record, ‘Live While We’re Young’, shot to No.1 in the pre-order charts in a staggering 50 countries, becoming the fastest-selling pre-ordered single in chart history. It even registered the biggest opening sales figures in the States for a single by a non-US artist, by shifting an impressive 314,000 copies in its first week of release.
With just one listen, it’s not hard to understand why. The boys have upped their game, saying that the success of their debut record meant they worked even harder to produce a polished second album, portraying their significant growth during the last 12 months.
Louis says, “I do think it’s a better album. It’s more mature. We wanted the album to grow with us. We’re a year older, our music sounds older.”
“We wanted to gradually get more and more ‘live’ sounding,” explains Harry. “So this album is a lot less little synth sounds, more guitars and more drums.”
“We did a lot of writing in the studio,” continues Niall. “I play the guitar on a lot of the tracks on the album.”
Recording for ‘Take Me Home’ began back in May, with an array of talented song-writers battling for the chance to write for the UK’s biggest phenomenon. Many who penned tracks on their debut LP, ‘Up All Night’ returned; a true testament of how special it is to be a part of the One Direction team.
Multi Brit Award-winning song-writing sensation Ed Sheeran wrote stripped-back track ‘Little Things’ for the boys, allowing them to go back to basics with just their five voices and an acoustic guitar. His other contribution, ‘Over Again’, is another guitar-based offering - a reminiscent love song of epic proportions.
Tom Fletcher also returned to pen the energetic, bass-led ‘I Would’; while his McFly band mates Dougie Poynter and Danny Jones completed the powerful track with their production expertise.
“Ed is an amazing lyricist and we’re very lucky to work with him,” says Louis proudly. “Tom is also a great writer and he writes great melodies. McFly are role models for us.”
Even the hit-making team of Savan Kotecha, Rami Yacoub and Carl Falk (the trio behind the band’s Platinum-selling debut single ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful’) came back, this time to collaborate on three new songs; amongst them ‘Back For You’ and ‘Last First Kiss’. The latter sees Niall confidently showcase his guitar riffs.
“It’s really important for us to be part of that writing process,” Louis continues. “We always want to write as much as possible because we want our songs to sound as genuine as possible. The most personal one is a song called ‘Back For You’. It’s about being away on tour and missing our girlfriends.”
Other well-respected contributing writers and producers range from Shellback (who wrote Taylor Swift’s current smash single ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back together’) to Dr. Luke (Katy Perry) and Julian Bunetta (Jason Derulo).
“Second albums are the hardest,” confides Harry. “We were a bit nervous before we started recording. But we have more experience this time, we had a bit more input and we’ve got better songs.”
Thanks to their modest approach, the boys have already filled acres of print press with glowing reviews for ‘Take Me Home’, with Internet newspaper The Huffington Post declaring 2012 to be ‘The Year of One Direction’. Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis even performed on The X Factor USA, cementing their well-established global status.
“Hopefully we make ‘Uncle Si’ [Simon Cowell] proud,” Niall laughed before the show; while Zayn excitedly told us, “Having come from the UK X Factor, we can’t wait to perform on the US stage – it’s going to be a great night”.
It was just two years ago when One Direction were crowned the third place winners of The X Factor 2010. They had entered the competition has five individuals, but thanks to the foresight of judges Simon Cowell, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh, they had been encouraged to become a group if they wished to continue through to the finals.
"I didn't think I would ever want to be in a group,” admits Zayn. “But when I was there and it was happening, and I knew the lads a bit, there was no way I was going to say 'no'. We've all got quite different sounding voices and our own individual style, so we can play up to that and play to each of our strengths.”
With that One Direction were born and together they went on to impress an average of 16 million UK viewers each weekend with their powerful performances of Kim Wilde’s ‘Kids In America’ to Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’. It became clear the UK had fallen in love with these five talented boys. It didn’t take long for the rest of the world to do the same.
Louis adds with sincerity, "We came from nothing, and had no experience as a group at all. By the time we came to the end of the show, we were a completely different group. We worked so hard, and achieved so much. We also became really close mates – we’re just all so grateful that we got along so well from the start.”
One Direction signed to Simon Cowell’s record label in January 2011 and released their debut LP, ‘Up All Night’, nine months later. Since then, they have seen their first album reach the number one spot in 17 countries worldwide. To celebrate, they took their ‘Up All Night’ tour to Australia, New Zealand and North America – getting to know their fast-growing fan-base, across the world.
“Our fans have their tickets and they’ve been waiting a year to see us,” grinned Niall. “So we’ve got to give it our best. I love it.”
Speaking of their whirlwind rise to fame, Liam reminisces, “It’s amazing to think back to when we were first put together - and to the point we are at now. Things have moved so quickly, it’s got all of us in a massive state of shock. It’s so surreal to think of everything - like winning the BRIT, doing our first UK tour, having our first number one. I can’t believe all of this has happened to us five lucky guys.”
Now with ‘Take Me Home’ dominating the UK charts, over 10 million dedicated Facebook fans and 7.6 million Twitter followers, One Direction will embark on a huge 2013 world tour.
They begin by headlining New York’s infamous Madison Square Garden in December, before hitting the road through Europe, North America and Australasia in February - playing over 100 shows across three continents. Tickets for their six-date London shows have already sold out, and additional dates were added to their North American itinerary due to ‘overwhelming demand’.
Right now, all over the world hundreds of thousands of eager fans are looking forward to seeing their idols perform in the flesh. It’s looking like 2013 could also be ‘The Year of One Direction’.